Amendment 74 a defense mechanism against government abuses

Tony Gagliardi NFIB
Tony Gagliardi NFIB

Most people in Colorado don’t know the government can take up to 90 percent of the value of your property without compensating you for your loss. Right now, there isn’t even a method by which an individual property owner can attempt to be made whole when adversely affected by government action.

When confronted with these facts, local government bureaucrats often will outright deny it. No mystery, then, why they are some of the most vocal opponents of Amendment 74. To listen to them, its passage would mean the death of your city or town.

Not so.

What these purveyors of doom and gloom don’t want the average citizen to know is that Amendment 74 is a response to decades of misuse of eminent domain and the taking of private property.

Amendment 74 is a defense mechanism for those family farms and small businesses struggling to remain solvent against added layers of regulations imposed upon them by local governments and state agencies.

It asks voters a simple question: Shall there be an amendment to the Colorado Constitution requiring the government to award just compensation to owners of private property when a government law or regulation reduces the fair market value of the property?

Those who scream it will cost millions must understand the irony of their argument. If it would cost government millions, that means governments are costing the individual property owners millions by their actions.

Opponents of Amendment 74 are as quick as they are wrong to cite an Oregon ballot measure as an example of what could befall communities in Colorado. When Oregon voters passed Initiative 37 in 2004, it created an administrative process that sent a claimant straight to the offending agency or governmental entity either to be paid or receive a variance.

An agency had 180 days to either pay, issue a variance or reject the demand. At that point, a claimant could go to court. Because there was no clear adjudicatory process or clear standard for burden of proof, it caused a flood of claimants to approach agencies for payments or variances. And because there was no process for adjudication or money available to provide compensation, it resulted in more than 7,500 requests for variances. Measure 37 was repealed in 2007.

Far from being an example of what could happen to Colorado, Oregon’s Initiative 37 offers an example of why Amendment 74 is a better and more equitable way to resolve regulatory takings issues. Amendment 74 makes clear that property owners must prove in a court of law the value of the property had been degraded by a proportionate amount.

NFIB Colorado, the state’s largest small business association, and members of the Colorado Farm Bureau have years of experience watching the alarming trend of governments — comprised of both elected officials and unelected bureaucrats with increasingly activist leanings — diminish property for their pet causes.

It must stop. Amendment 74 would put an end to the abuse.

The idea that governments can come in and devalue your property without your having recourse or compensation is anathema to our Colorado values.

If you believe it’s deeply unfair that farmers, ranchers, entrepreneurs and property owners must lose 91 percent of the value of their property through government action, Amendment 74 would be a big help in fighting it.

Yes, Amendment 74 does apply to oil and gas development. But it also applies to land and water rights. Amendment 74 is an opportunity for individuals to protect their constitutionally guaranteed private property rights this election.